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Black Mage: Hey, didn't we find out a while ago that your whole purpose for stealing stuff was to get cash for the medicine for your dad's illness which we have already cured?

Thief: Yeah, so?

Black Mage: So shouldn't you, y'know, quit stealing stuff?

Thief: No.

When a character is revealed to have had an actual reason for his apparently villainous actions, it frames their actions in a better light. However, sometimes, the behavior continues even when the justification no longer applies. That's this trope.

For example, a villain who robs banks to pay for his sick daughter's medical treatment might be reasonable, but it becomes completely irrational when the daughter isn't even sick anymore.

Sometimes justified when the character has got himself so deep into whatever he was doing that it's no longer possible for him to leave.

In some cases this trope keeps the Conflict Ball rolling- we wouldn't have much of a character, after all, if we could solve his problems by just giving him whatever reasonable thing it is he wants. Other times it's a simple character quirk, or a poorly-thought-through excuse intended to make a villain sympathetic but ultimately just inviting more Fridge Logic.

A subtrope of Motive Decay. Can turn into You Keep Telling Yourself That if someone calls them out on it.

Examples of Shouldn't You Stop Stealing? include:

Anime and Manga

  • Usopp from One Piece: at first he lied to cheer up his dying mother, then he lied to cheer up his sick girlfriend, and since then he's mainly lied out of habit. Nami is also a classic example: she steals to buy back her hometown from Arlong. Once that's no longer an issue, she steals because money is good.


  • Fagin's gang in Oliver and Company: At the start, they steal to survive and to pay off the debt Fagin owes to Sykes. At the end, Sykes dies and they save a little girl from a rich family. And then they all go back to living on the streets for no reason. Apparently, Fagin didn't ask Jenny's parents, "Dude, Where's My Reward??".

Live Action TV

  • Examined in Breaking Bad. Walt makes enough money to support his family after his death, but cannot quit because he's too tied up in the underworld to get out cleanly.
  • Nancy on Weeds started selling marijuana as a way to make extra money so she can maintain her family's suburban lifestyle. However, when she actually burns down her house to get away from the suburbs it becomes apparent that she likes the excitement of being a drug dealer and she will keep doing it no matter how much money she has and what state her family is in.

Web Comics

  • Thief from Eight Bit Theater. His stealing is explained to be for the purpose of buying medicine for his dying father but after it's shown to be part of this elaborate con and take over plan, he keeps on stealing despite being in fact very rich. Of course that could just be how he got rich, not to mention he does have no morals and is an Impossible Thief who steals, cons and lies to Magnificent Bastard levels.
  • Order of the Stick:
    • Possibly Haley. Initially, The Reveal suggests that she steals only to save her father. In a flashback in the Prequel book, she states that she's doing it to get 10% of his future income for the rest of his life (which makes it sort of a retroactive version). Later on, it's clearer she enjoys money for its own sake as well--polishing and singing to her gold. Now that she finally has enough money, she so far hasn't made any particular attempts to accumulate more, but that may be due to lack of opportunity.
    • Almost certainly Redcloak, though the full ramifications of this haven't been brought to bear yet. As was explained in a prequel book, his function as Bearer of the Crimson Mantle is to shepherd and assist the goblin people, a goal he works toward by attempting to gain control of the Gates. But after failing to secure Azure City's gate, he works to create the city-state of Gobotopia as a homeland for the goblins and gain it international recognition. And there lies the problem- Redcloak could work much more effectively to better the position of the Goblin people by empowering Gobotopia, but he's too invested in the initial Gates plan to give it up. The fact that Xykon would be not happy if Redcloak tried to back out doesn't help either.

Western Animation

  • Mr. Freeze from The DCAU was originally motivated entirely by trying to save his cryogenically-frozen wife; after she's saved, he goes on a crime spree played for tragedy, as by the time his wife is saved, his condition has taken most of his body away, and he can't be with her: the crime spree is so that others can share his despair.
    • In the comic book version (based on The DCAU, as before Freeze was just a typical villain), Freeze accidentally kills his wife, firing his cold ray into her stasis tube by mistake while fighting Batman and shattering her. At first he blames Batman for this and wants revenge, but over time he became just another criminal. Eventually he has her resurrected with a Lazarus Pit, but that just causes her to become a villain named Lazara, who blames her husband for what happened to her.
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